A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the first few episodes of “Daredevil” Season 2. However, the first four episodes only provided a microcosm of the events that would unfold, so its time to break down the season as a whole. The story for the season follows Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil, as he continues his journey to save Hell’s Kitchen. However, Daredevil’s got new enemies in the fold, including The Punisher, the Hand, and his ex-girlfriend Elektra.
With the physicality and athleticism required to pull off all these characters, the series embraces its action premise even more than it had in Season 1. There’s some really incredible action sequences put together here. They bring out a superior tracking shot than the extended one from season 1. They also do an excellent job of incorporating the violence that is required of a Punisher property, as well as the pure athleticism required to take on a Ninja based storyline. They’ve very clearly figured out how to make the action work visually, but the actual footage remains extremely dark. I get that the visual style is supposed to carry over from Daredevil to the audience, but it just got me frustrated at times.
The dialogue is not very well written this time around either. There are some plot issues that pop up as the season progresses, and Daredevil is forced to rely on other people to take care of his issues. A lot of times throughout the season, he creates problems for himself that are entirely on him. It started to make me question why I cheered for Matt Murdock in the first place at times. That said, the rest of the cast picks up the story and runs with the extra screentime/influence they get as a result of the story that Matt is struggling with.
Before we jump further into the review, we’re going to give you a SPOILER WARNING for the rest of the review.
The combination of the elements leads Matt down some interesting rabbit holes that ultimately tells an interesting story for any fan of comic book heroes. However, the storylines those fans are rooting for are not Daredevil’s. The obvious standout of the season is The Punisher (portrayed by Jon Bernthal), who absolutely dominates his screentime whenever he is featured. The first four episodes remain his true showcase, but he’s given plenty of moments to expand upon his characterization as the season continues. His court scenes are solid moments for Bernthal, and his discussions with Karen gave him a depth that was missing from other characters in the film.
In many ways he was a natural extension of themes from season 1, and was a worthy followup to Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk. While in prison he comes into contact with the crime lord, and the two have some of the best discussions of the series. However, the scenes between the two provide their purpose, and definitely showcase that Fisk is still a very real threat as the series continues in the future. Ultimately Punisher’s story falls flat towards the end, with a deus ex machina that felt shoehorned into the conclusion in order to complete his arc by the end of the season.
The other standout characters of the season are Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). Henson does an excellent job with his screentime, and does a great job of relating a realism to his character that is missing from the other non-superhero characters. He conveys a sense of loss as the season unfolds, showcasing his ability to create a tangible character arc of a man who is not only outgrowing his best friend, but is dealing with a damaging blow to his professional career. The showrunners do an excellent job of making you feel for the character, and there’s no doubt that he was the second best character of the season behind the dominating Bernthal.
Page also overcomes the issues that I had with her over the first four episodes. Woll does a great job at expanding on her character as the season progresses, and finally overcomes her role as Murdock’s girlfriend. The first four episodes looked like they were taking a step back for the character, but she is able to break out of the role of damsel in distress or simple retread. Instead, Karen steps out of the shadows of Nelson & Murdock to begin what looks like a promising career as a journalist. In doing so, she is able to assert herself within the stories of both Daredevil and Punisher, but maintains an interesting story of her own.
Finally, it’s tough to wrap my head around the Elektra storyline. I have no issues with Elektra herself, who was a departure from her comic book origins in a big way. I actually enjoyed this version of the character, played by Elodie Yung, but her role as the “Black Sky” was a bit confusing. In Season 1, a little boy had been pegged as the Black Sky character, and Stick killed him as a result. However, in this season, Stick seems to know that Elektra would always be the Black Sky. So which is it? It’s never really explained well, and the biggest issue I had with the Hand was that it was just boring. There was not a point in time where I wanted to be with Daredevil and Elektra while I knew that Karen/Foggy/Punisher were having a more interesting storyline.
In understanding the Elektra storyline, it also becomes apparent that Daredevil was basically a side character in his own season. Both Elektra and Punisher overshadowed Matt at all times, and while they both work as foils for Matt in some fashion, he ultimately doesn’t develop. There were literally hundreds of stories that could have brought Matt to the point where he needs to reveal that he is Daredevil to other characters, but what was worse about the story was that he didn’t actually grow at all.
Just one issue I had was how Matt learns to fight the Hand. Due to the fact that they are so quiet (as ninjas often are), he couldn’t hear them, and begins ineffectively at fighting them. Then he begins to pick up on the ninja’s swords, so he can kind of fight them. They adapt quickly and Matt is eventually told by Stick to listen for “the sound of breathing” to fight them. The whole idea is so ridiculous that it was hard to buy it. I get that Matt is supposed to be smart, but considering that earlier in the season we know his hearing is damaged on some level, that was a bridge too far for my liking.
This works as a kind of microcosm for issues I have with the show. It speaks to the larger issue that Matt’s function in the season is to take a step back as a hero/person while watching other characters fulfill their arcs. However, the show didn’t seem to put those issues together because they continue to try to use Matt as a wise and sage character. This doesn’t gel with his arc, namely because he isn’t right a single time over the course of the season. I think that will ultimately leave this, combined with the 50 callbacks to Season 1 and “Jessica Jones,” will make this season be remembered in the same vein as “Iron Man 2” with the Punisher’s intro taking the place of Black Widow’s intro.
Overall, I would give the season a solid B to B+, namely due to the arc that follows both Frank Castle, Foggy Nelson and the limited screen time given to Wilson Fisk. The performances throughout were excellent, including Charlie Cox’s, but the story they wanted to tell just wasn’t 100% together this time around.
It’ll be interesting to see if Daredevil returns for a 3rd season before the Defenders series, which could do a lot to write his personal arc moving forward. However, it looks like we’ll get a 2nd season of Jessica Jones first. I actually think that if they want to craft the story of the Defenders over the action the series may bring, that might be the best path to take.
What was your take on the season? Let us know in the comments below!
Season 2 of “Daredevil” is currently streaming on Netflix.